Pretty Little Liars Episode 718 Recap: Return to The Kissing Rock

Merciful Antiope, Mona Vanderwaal continues her reign of being the greatest character in Rosewood history right up until the end! Is she A.D.? No, I don’t think so. Pretty Little Liars‘ writers never met a reveal they didn’t like to exposit standing right on top of the finish line (except the best reveal, which was that Ezra was A). But she has managed to steal the LITERAL GAME back from whoever’s playing with the Liars now. The Game starts out in Alison and Emliy’s bedroom. They find it when they’re chastely making their chaste way upstairs to chastely engage in some chaste scissoring — but when the police arrive with a search warrant a few minutes later it has disappeared. It ends up in Mona’s apartment. The way her eyebrows pop up when a prison cage emerges at the very end is a true and full glory.

Okay, truth bomb.

Just because Hanna and I are two women sitting close enough to touch each other doesn’t mean we’re having lesbian sex.

What.

Emily, is that true?

As per, Mona accomplishes more in a single day than all these beautiful lemurs combined. After the search warrants have been doled out to all the Liars — very good directing and editing here, I actually felt panicked for a minute — they hole up in a suite in the Radley to discuss next steps. There are no next steps. They’re fresh out of food and ideas. But: Knock, knock, it’s Mona. She swaggers in and sits right down on the couch in such a way that splits up Emily and Alison and then explains that Aria is on the A.D. team. Spencer wants “hard proof” because Mona’s soft proof of Aria being all the places all the bad things happen isn’t enough. So, fine, Mona intercepted a phone call between Aria and A.D. and she knows the exact location they’re meeting in the park and it just speaks so highly of her adrenalized hyperreality that none of the Liars even question how she’s able to continue to do all these dark magics or why.

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The Liars go to the park and Aria is, indeed, there in her black hoodie. They’re all very surprised to see each other. Spencer jumps to blaming Aria for her parents getting divorced, because she thinks Aria put that Mary Drake recording on her house’s PA system. Which: I mean, yeah, Aria did some dumb and duplicitous shit these last many days, but she did not impregnate half the people in this town and then plot the murders of her various mistresses. Peter Hastings did that all by himself. Veronica finally deciding to bounce was no one’s fault but his. Aria counters Spencer’s yelling with the most random and hilarious bit of Spencer history: One time she kidnapped Ezra’s fake son and took him to a puppet horror show! Spencer’s like, “Wow, that’s a deep cut.” The other Liars don’t remember what the fuck Aria is even talking about.

GET YOUR OWN RIDE.

I mean, okay? I drove here.

Aria: Okay, but it’s like this. Does everyone remember my fiance stalking us and writing a book about our dead best friend when he was our literature teacher?
Liars: Is this before you made that face on the ski lift?
Aria: Right, yes, before that. So on the ski lift remember how he revealed that he had preyed upon me knowing I was a youth?
Liars: Is this before Alison said he statutory rapes because he’s too romantic for his own good?
Aria: Yes, exactly. So anyway, when I found out he was a predator I filled out a police report. I was so mad, you guys. I never submitted it, though, and now A.D. has got their hands on it and is threatening to take it to the police.
Alison: So you’re terrorizing us to keep the guy who terrorized you out of jail?
Aria: Yes! Thank you for understanding. So we’re good?

No, in fact, they are not good! Detective Tanner, who has taken over the case from Detective Fury, calls the Liars and tells them to come on down to the Rosewood Police Department for another round of menacing cop talk.

Tanner tells the Liars she’s “a closer” and says she specifically requested to come back to town to lock them all away. It’s a pretty bold claim from a detective who investigated these guys for 25 seasons, was never able to file charges against them that stuck, and ultimately found them locked up in an underground bunker. She also has the distinction of hiring Toby Cavanaugh as an officer of the law. She does, however, say a thing to Spencer that sums it all up: “I always felt that you were guilty, in some way. I just never knew how.” It ranks right up there with Jenna Marshall saying “I feel a lot safer when I’m in charge of what happens to me” when it comes to dialogue that captures the essence of what made the best parts of this show so good.

“So just to review. Here are two fully clothed women who love each other sitting next to each other.”

“Are they having lesbian sex?”

Not yet.

I actually wrote about this before the final season of Pretty Little Liars started:

For a precious handful of golden seasons, Pretty Little Liars was everything I wanted out of a TV show: a haunting microcosm of besieged female sexuality. Who is A? Who cares. Here’s the real question: What if the Dead Blonde Girl knew she was going to die, and why? What if Laura Palmer and Lily Kane and those girls whose names you can’t remember from True Detective and The Killing and half the cold opens of Law & Order: SVU understood that they were going to be claimed by the same puritanical hysteria that destroyed the witches who came before them? To purge. To purify. To punish them for the desires they stirred by simply existing. What if the Messiah wasn’t a man, but a woman. Wasn’t a lamb, but a wolf. What if the Dead Blonde Girl was queer? What if she shook the snow globe?

If PLL had kept digging there, kept exploring, kept pushing boundaries and buttons, Tanner describing an actual witch hunt would have had me in raptures here at the end. What an accidental self-indictment, not only of Tanner but of our culture at large. “I always felt that you were guilty, in some way. I just never knew how.” That’s how we’re taught to feel about powerful, unapologetic women! It’s why it was so easy for Fox News and the GOP to turn Hillary Clinton into a Satan in the minds of 50 million Americans! It’s half the reason Donald Trump is president right now! The Liars are the ones who have spent years being hunted, by both their stalkers and the police. They’re perpetual victims. But the people in authority continue to persecute them. I always felt that you were guilty, in some way. I just never knew how.

Anyway, Tanner found some shattered windshield glass in Hanna’s shower with Archer Dunhill’s blood on it. A.D. wants one of the Liars to turn themselves in or else they’re all going down, and so each of the Liars responds to this threat by having sex.

Ezra tells Aria that he knows about the police report and he wouldn’t have been mad (and still wouldn’t be mad) if she filed it because he is, in fact, a very bad guy. But no, she wants to stay with him and tell him the whole truth about all the things, but she’s gotta kiss him first because she thinks that he might leave her. He assures her that he will not, and it’s true. Why in the world would he bail on a relationship with someone who keeps coming back for more of his selfish, entitled bullshit. He’d be in jail or drunk in an alley crying over another failed manuscript if it weren’t for her willingness to ignore how awful he is.

Ali leads Emily into the woods, which she says is nice because it is helping her think. Instead of, you know, triggering her PTSD from all the times she’s been killed here in this forest. They arrive at what I believe is the kissing rock, the place Ian statutory raped Ali on a video that was eventually projected onto a mausoleum in a graveyard the Liars were creeping through in the middle of the night. It is at that rock where Alison died and in these woods where Emily also died that they take off at least some of their clothes and engage in a little closed-mouth kissing while lying side by side. At least I think that’s what’s happening. Unlike Ezria and Spoby (wait, I’m getting to it), I’m watching them have sex from behind like a log and a family of foxes. It’s gauzy. They stroke each other’s faces.

Awww, Pretty Little Liars.

Wait, no, sorry. South of Nowhere?

Spencer goes to Toby’s cabin in the woods. He is a lumberjack now. A grieving lumberjack. Doesn’t matter to Spencer, though, I’ll tell you what. She is good at everything except for two things: 1) besting Mona, 2) being alone for more than ten minutes. She crawls on top of Toby and talks about all that kissing they did in their teenage years and romping around seedy motel rooms. “Remember that time we were staking out Jenna and Garrett and you took off your shirt and played Scrabble with me?” she asks him. “Remember when you faked your own death and I went fucking berserk and ended up in the same asylum where I was born but then I got out and you were alive?” Toby does remember. They do it.

Hanna and Caleb skip the sex. Caleb takes Hanna to the courthouse to get married and guess who else is there? Ashley Marin! Hanna refused her help earlier, though she hugged her for offering it, but Ashley remains the only competent, loving parent in the entire state of Pennsylvania so she called a lawyer to keep Hanna and her teddy bear out of jail, and she brought a bouquet for her, and she pulled some strings to wake up the judge after hours, and she looks on as Caleb and Hanna say I do and I do. It’s very sweet. It’s very, very sweet. Theirs is the only relationship that makes sense at the end of the day, at least with the storytelling that was delivered to us on-screen, and they’re the ones who deserve this moment and it warms my tired heart. Also, now they can’t be called on to testify against each other.

Hanna and Caleb are married. That’s fine. That’s cool.

The only one who deserves me…

IS ME

The Liars — besides Aria — come together to wait out the Game’s ticking clock. When it goes off and declares that they’re all going down, Spencer grabs a boulder from somewhere and smashes it to pieces. Aria isn’t there because she’s going to turn herself into the cops. A.D. tries to talk her out of it because “tomorrow is another day” but suddenly Aria is surrounded by red lights and blue lights and oh hey there’s a dead body with a missing finger inside the trunk of her car. #PoorEzra

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 1061 articles for us.

30 Comments

  1. Even in the halcyon days of the first few seasons, I was never as optimistic about this show as you, Heather, but god do I wish it could have been for you what it promised it would be.

    I’ve been watching this season mostly just for completionist reasons, and because I genuinely do want to know how they’re going to bring this sucker across the finish line, but holy crap the ending of this episode made me want to vomit. Hanna and Caleb are the only couple I care about anymore, and watching all the others have sex was honestly revolting. Never thought I’d say that about a wlw ship, but I guess that’s how twisted this show has gotten.

  2. I WILL say, I liked how much this episode referenced it’s own history – the deep cut to the Malcolm kidnapping, as you mentioned, but also the return of Tanner, talk about the bunker, the reference to Mona’s time on the A-team, that time Ezra was A for a second, among others – though it did sort of add salt to the wound of the mess this show has become.

  3. I get what you mean about what Tanner said but something else hit me in that scene, when Spenser said that she was the one who found them in the Dollhouse she replied by saying they were only there because they didn’t tell her the truth – I felt like that was more victim blaming and it really annoys me when TV shows do that, this show does it a lot

    • Yeah, I was waiting for spencer to point out that the last time Tanner investigated them, they ended up in prison for a murder that didnt even happen. Seemed like it would have been a good point to make to cut into tanners smug bullshit

      • Don’t get me wrong, Tanner is smug as f*ck, but at the same time I understand her. Even though the liars are (mostly) innocent and the victims of bizarre circumstances, Tanner’s not wrong for always suspecting the liars of being guilty.

  4. It drove me absolutely batshit that non of the liars’ response to Aria’s;

    “A.D threatened to turn in an honest police report about how Ezra statutory raped me and Ali(maybe) and stalked us for over a year!”

    was:

    “Well fucking good! He is a despicable person! We should have said this a long time ago but your reltionship is not healthy, its not normal and its not okay! Yes, please, send him to fucking prison!”

    Because honestly, the only way ive got through “the ezra problem” of the last few seasons was choosing to beleive (since the writers never did it justice) that the other girls were genuinely horrified by him and his reltionship with aria, but didnt know how to adress it. And that they knew from experience that when people try to break up Ezria, Aria goes insane and hates whoever points out the sickness of it all to her. So when they were justifiably angry with her, I honestly half expected them to go there. Just once. Just for fucking once have SOMEONE on this show adress the fact that Ezra is a fucking predator. Because Arias’ cardboard-cutout-5-years-later-boyfriend fleetingly mentioning it really doesnt count.

  5. I am so stuck on the fact that when Spencer goes to Aria’s apartment she enters through one door and then leaves through a second door. Both these doors
    1)lead outside and
    2)are in the same room but
    3)they are not the same color.

    WHAT?! This is the most baffling interior design choice I have ever witnessed. I can’t get over it. Of all the things, this is the hill I die on apparently.

    What a waste of valuable wall space first of all. I mean, I know Plot Reasons are the reason it is this way (Spencer needed to leave without walking past Tanner) but one door is black and one is red is it a statement about the chaos that has been wrought to paint the doors to symbolize anarchy or what.

    • I can’t comment on the color of the doors, other than to invoke, I don’t know, Twin Peaks maybe? Did the Black Lodge have a door?

      But there is a logic behind there being two of them. The apartment is above the Brew, or whatever it’s called now, so one door leads to the coffee shop and the other leads to an exterior staircase.

      So apparently, I’m choosing to fight you on this hill… If only the view were better.

  6. I am so here for Ashley Marin being a BOSS. She’s sweeping in and making sure THIS shit gets done, THAT shit is covered by a lawyer, THESE damn kids stop dragging their feet, etc. She did not crowd her pasta boxes with cash and let Wilden do the gross sexes to her back in the day for nothing, goddammit, so if y’all could please just get your lives. Love it.

  7. I’ve always been fond of the couple montages before shit goes down, but apart from Hanna and Caleb they all felt so skeevy? I mean, Toby’s fiance has been dead for like five minutes Spencer, and given how many times Emily saw that video of Ali and Ian at the kissing rock I doubt she’d find it a romantic location. At least the ship stuff is hopefully done now and we can spend more time with Mona.

    • It wasn’t Spencer that kissed him, it was her twin. At least that’s what everybody is thinking, and it’s kind of a legit theory, since Spencer has been acting very weird this season, like she’s two different people, and if Spencer’s twin is Sara Harvey’s friend Avery that we never have seen on screen it would explain the connection between Cece and Sara. But I’m quite disappointed in Toby, you’d think he would grieve a little longer before jumping into bed with “Spencer.”

  8. I always wanted this show to stop ignoring the fact that Ezra is a predatory stalker but it’s somehow even WORSE now that they bring it up all the time only to respond with “oh, no, he’s actually nice #Ezria4Ever”!

    Mona and her general Mona-ness are still the best things to ever come out of a television show, though.

  9. Emily’s love scenes on PLL compared to the rest of the Liars has always been….tame, to say the least, but this weird, fuzzy, tight-lipped pecking, role around in the woods might take the cake for being the least passionate yet. I legit LOL’ed at that South of Nowhere reference because I remember watching that as a teenager and being like, “Why the hell are they just like hugging a lot and brushing each other’s hair? Is that really how girls do sex?”

    I understood the disparity in sex scenes back when it was ABC Family because I assumed it was network double standards bullshit, but FreeForm literally is showing commercials for a new show where the characters are talking about and showing sex toys in the preview, so like, it seems they’d be OK with two girls kissing with their actual mouths. I don’t know.

  10. Emily’s love scenes on PLL compared to the rest of the Liars have always been….tame, to say the least, but this weird, fuzzy, tight-lipped pecking, role around in the woods might take the cake for being the least passionate yet. I legit LOL’ed at that South of Nowhere reference because I remember watching that as a teenager and being like, “Why the hell are they just like hugging a lot and brushing each other’s hair? Is that really how girls do sex?”

    I understood the disparity in sex scenes back when it was ABC Family because I assumed it was network double standards bullshit, but FreeForm literally is showing commercials for a new show where the characters are talking about and showing sex toys in the preview, so like, it seems they’d be OK with two girls kissing with their actual mouths. I don’t know.

    • While Emily’s love scenes have definitely always been more chaste than the others, the ones with Alison are the chastest of all, which makes me think (and I feel like it bears out on screen) a lot of it is due to Pieterse’s discomfort. She does not look okay.

  11. Did everyone notice that Aria was using a LITERAL burner phone?

    On the latest Ezria: I didn’t think they’d manage to make the relationship more repulsive, but Ezra has really nailed manipulating Aria into thinking his actions were a thing “they” survived “together,” rather than a thing that HE, an adult man, did to HER when she was in high school. But then the show has Aria cutting him off when he says “maybe” he deserves jail with a big “no?!” It’s a depressing reflection of our culture where women are forced to make everything okay despite what has been done to them. Still, the whole thing about Ezra finding the file and dumping it is…suspect. To say nothing of him exiting for calls/visits to/from Wes or Nicole’s family, and how he comes and goes immediately before or after parting ways with Aria. Good lord, it would be so beautiful if he was A.D., but I don’t think he will be A.D.

    Ashley Marin and Mona Vanderwaal are the supporting characters we need and this show doesn’t deserve.

    And still this episode has pearls like Hanna saying, “time is stupid,” and Spencer replying, “that’s my favorite thing you’ve ever said.” THIS GODDAMN SHOW.

    • Dear lord if Ezra turned out to be A.D., I might seriously consider forgiving everything and naming this show as one of the best young-people shows in history. What a long game that would be.

      So naturally, it’s not happening.

      • Right? Jesus tap-dancing Christ, it would be sweet. So natch, Marlene et al will not go there.

        For what it’s worth, the Ezra = A.D. theories are STRONG. At this point, there’s a tension between who I want to be A.D. and who I think will be A.D. There are actually tons of clues pointing to Ezra, so it would check both boxes and be so satisfying. Like with any of the other A or A.D. suspects, his actions could be explained away, but from where we’re sitting, there is a totally rational argument for Ezra being A.D. irrespective of our overwhelming disdain for his character. I would even go so far as to say that his being a predator aside, the Ezria BS really sucked so much oxygen out of episodes and Aria’s character development. Get a picture in your mind of those episodes without Ezra where Aria was almost a different person. Wouldn’t that have been awesome?

  12. I remember when you wrote that Heather, I thought it was so brilliant! I loved the Lily Kane character so much and I can’t help but have a soft spot for Allison. I’m gonna miss your recaps of this shitshow so much! Can’t believe there’s only 2 episodes left..

  13. Heather we don’t always see eye to eye but you nailed everything I felt about this episode.
    I will add that aside from Spencer not being able to best Mona, Caleb (and Ezra for some reason) put on their big boy pants and thought they cracked the whole A.D. mystery wide open when they tracked the game to Mona’s when really they know nothing.
    And also Aria turning herself in has got to be the dumbest Aria move in all the seasons but at least she’s being consistent with dumb ideas.

  14. I spent that whole Ezria police report scene yelling in all caps to my bff about how yes he did deserve it and should be in prison because he is a predator etc etc.
    Then I spent a lot of time complaining how its OK that Aria and Spencer and in bras and seriously getting it on with their dudes, but Emily and Alison are wearing these little vest tops and kissing etc all pathetic and “sweet”. Eugh double standards y’all.

    Mona and Ashley have my heart tbh

  15. Menacing Cop Talk sounds like the name for a terrible hybrid of a cop show and a talk show (she says like there could be a good kind of hybrid of those two things).

    “Welcome back to Cop Talk, I’m your host Detective Tanner…”

  16. Has Ashley Marin ever been in a room with Ezra, though? As the only wine mom with good sense semi-permanent existence, I feel like she’d poke him right in the eye, call him a predator, and chase him out of town with nothing but a corkscrew and her own weaponized feminine wiles.

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